This qualification has been designed to accredit the knowledge and skills of learners who investigate, report and present evidence related to incidents involving fire and/or explosion. To successfully achieve the Level 5 Certificate in Fire Investigation you must complete 4 stages of assessment. During these assessments you must demonstrate competence in a number of criteria set by the Awarding Body (SFJ Awards.) The criteria laid out in the Qualification Handbook issued by SFJ Awards, are;-


• Prepare to investigate an incident involving fire and/or explosion.
• Investigate an incident involving fire and/or explosion.
• Report on the investigation of incidents involving fire and/or explosion.
• Present evidence related to fire investigations in court and at other hearings.


The handbook will also provide you with the background to the qualification. It is extremely important that you are familiar with the required criteria. Sufficient evidence must be gathered relating to every criterion listed so that the qualification can be awarded. Your assessor will constantly be seeking evidence of skills, knowledge or understanding of these criteria throughout the various stages of the assessment process – but the onus is on you to demonstrate them.


Please noteYour own organisation may not necessarily deal directly with some aspects of a fire/explosion investigation such as: the recording, collecting, packaging and storing of physical evidence, report writing and courtroom procedures.


As a generic Level 5 fire Investigator you are expected to have some knowledge and understanding and demonstrate skills, which maybe outside your regular roles and responsibilities. Therefore, prior to attendance at the Assessment Centre, you are advised to consider seeking additional sources of information which would enhance your professional development.


The Assessment Process


A streamlined four stage assessment process:


Stage 1. Practical Assessment
Stage 2. Expert Witness Report
Stage 3. Written Examination and Portfolio of Questions
Stage 4. Inquisitorial Hearing

Once your registration has been accepted you will be sent a complete Candidate’s Guide including a comprehensive reading list and pre-read material.

Gardiner Associates Training and Research offer the following levels of accreditation for Fire Investigators.

GATR Level 2 Award – Introduction to Fire Investigation – Accredited by Gardiner Associates. For Tier 1 Fire Investigators;

Skills for Justice Level 2 Award in Introduction to Fire Investigation – Accredited by Skills for Justice. For Tier 1 Fire Investigators;

Skills for Justice Level 5 Certificate in Fire Investigation – Accredited by Skills for Justice. For Tier 2 Fire Investigators.

Skills For Justice Awards

These qualifications create opportunities for progression from, and into, existing fire and rescue related roles that require specialist fire investigation training such as advanced fire and explosion, including terrorist, investigations.

1. How does the National Occupational Standard (NOS) relate to SFJ Awards L5C?

The NOS components were designed and developed by leading members of the UK fire investigation community between 1996 and 2013 when Skills for Justice Awards (SFJA) converted them into their Level 5 Certificate assessment criteria.

2. Who was the NOS and SFJA L5C designed for?

Experienced practitioners who regularly undertake ‘Tier Two’ scene investigations.

3. Are there any pre-entry requirements for the GATR assessment process aligned to the L5C?

Yes. Since designing our robust assessment process we have delivered the product with the original design of the NOS in mind. The current version of the SFJ Awards Qualifications Handbook Pre-entry Requirements states: “Learners who wish to undertake this qualification must be experienced fire investigation practitioners. It is difficult to define a precise time period or a number of incidents a practitioner needs to investigate in order to gain appropriate experience. However, to give an indication, it is anticipated that the length of time needed to gain the required experience could range from a minimum of one year in a post as ‘full-time’ investigator with a large UK Metropolitan Fire & Rescue Service (F&RS), to a number of years for a practitioner (F&RS, police or other service) working in a quieter part of a rural region with fire investigation as an ‘add on reference’ to their role.“ Learners with queries as to whether their level of experience is sufficient for starting this qualification should contact their prospective Centre for further guidance”.

4. What does the SFJA L5C equate to in in academic NVQ terms?

NVQs are still in existence but have largely been replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) process. The title of each qualification contains details of the size e.g. award, certificate or diploma and level of difficulty (Entry to Level 8). The Level 5 Certificate is roughly equivalent to foundation degree level or NVQ level 4–5.

5. What is the difference between the SFJA Level 5 Certificate and a Level 5 Award?

It’s important to note the difference between an Award and a Certificate. Every qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) has a ‘size’. This size is determined in terms of the total qualification time (TQT). The TQT is made up of three components: Guided Learning Hours (GLH); Directed Learning Hours; and Invigilated Assessment Hours. The number of hours it takes to complete the course determines whether students are awarded an award, a certificate or diploma. The hours are as follows:

An award is 120 hours or less. A Certificate is 121 hours up to 369 hours.


Tier 1
SFJ Awards – Level 2 Award in Introduction to Fire Investigation Qualification Number: 603/7763/X Operational Start Date: 1 August 2021. SFJ Awards – Level 2 Award in Introduction to Fire Investigation. The main objective of this qualification is to improve awareness of fire investigation amongst practitioners initially attending a fire scene, who are most likely to be Watch Managers, Crew Managers and Junior Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs). It provides learners with the knowledge and skills to carry out Tier 1 fire investigations and to be able to hand over the scene to other agencies or a Tier 2 Fire Investigation Officer. It does not qualify individuals as competent Fire Investigators which is a much more advanced and specialised role. Achievement of the qualification will enable Watch Managers, Crew Managers and SOCOs to make more accurate and effective judgements, taking into account their professional and legal responsibility.


Tier 2
Aligning to the SFJ Awards – Level 5 Certificate in Fire Investigation. Qualification Number: 603/4951/7. This is for new Tier 2 fire investigation officers. SFJ Awards – Level 5 Certificate in Fire Investigation. This qualification is a work-based qualification and has been designed to accredit the knowledge and skills of learners who investigate, report and present evidence related to incidents involving fire and/or explosion. Pre-entry requirements. Learners who wish to undertake this qualification must be experienced fire investigation practitioners. The SFJA Level 5 Certification is a course of study of 270 hours (22 credits). Reasons for undertaking the Level 5 certificate. The qualification is designed to demonstrate competence. Please see: Competency Framework for Fire Investigation Second Edition Sect 8.11 and 8.12. BS EN ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Sec 6.1. ILAC-G19:08/2014 Sec 3.3. Forensic regulator: Codes of Practice and Conduct for forensic science providers and practitioners in the Criminal Justice System FSR-C-100 Issue 5. Sec 18 &19. Code of Practice for Investigators of Fires and Explosions for the Justice Systems in the UK Second Edition Sec 5.5

6. How long does it take to achieve the Award?

From attendance at the practical assessment to obtaining the results will take approximately 16 weeks depending on the availability of both candidate and assessor for the final Inquisitorial process.

7. What do I have to do?

Demonstrate competence, knowledge and understanding of all of the assessment criteria set by SFJ Awards. These criteria cover preparing to investigate a fire scene, investigating a fire scene, reporting on the investigation and presenting evidence of your findings. We assess you against the criteria by observing you investigating the fire scene; providing you with a written exam to test your knowledge and understanding; assessing a report you make following your investigation and finally, providing you with a chance to discuss your findings at an Inquisitorial hearing. It is very important you understand all the criteria and know how to evidence them. When reading the handbook and criteria, I notice my skills do not cover all aspects required of the qualification. How do I overcome this? You must thoroughly prepare to meet all the criteria in the handbook in order for you to be awarded the qualification. This may mean preparing yourself by seeking resources for your own development or attending training or preparatory events delivered by organisations that can show you how to do this.

8. Can I explain to the assessor what I am doing?

Yes. It will help both you and the assessor if you explain your actions as you are going along. Don’t forget the assessor will be looking to mark off criteria as you are completing the assessment and he/she may not see or understand everything you are doing. What happens if I do not achieve one part of the assessment but pass the others? We will give you every opportunity to satisfactorily meet all the criteria, but if there is an area that requires significant development, we will detail this in your feedback and make arrangements for you to retake that particular area after a period of self-development (additional costs may apply).

9. I am busy at work. How long do I have to submit the report?

The report stage simulates an expert witness report being submitted to an inquisitorial court. There are deadlines that must be met and the required criteria recognises this. You will have 8 weeks to submit your report. Only in exceptional circumstances will late reports be considered. We also encourage you to get the report checked by a supervising officer before submission to our assessors.

10. What will GATR supply on the practical assessment?

GATR will provide scene lighting, tools and evidence packaging. The candidate must provide PPE, note- taking and photographic equipment.


11. Will I investigate a real fire scene in a structure constructed of building materials in common use?

Positively yes. At our UK bespoke Phoenix Heights facility, we only use metal containers for fire demonstration, storage and other general purposes.

12. What if I’m wrong about the cause of the fire in my submitted report?

The assessment isn’t about whether you are right or wrong. It’s about the process and how you came to your hypothesis. You may be challenged on this during the Inquisitorial stage – but it is assumed you are the subject matter expert.

13. I get nervous when being watched and assessed by one of my peers.

All GATR SFJA assessors are trained to sensitively observe and assess the candidate. They will put you at ease if you are nervous but they will not interfere with your investigation. They may ask you to clarify your actions but the fire scene is yours to investigate.

14. Do I receive feedback?

Yes. Feedback on each part of the process will be terms of the amount of evidence you have provided during the assessment and how well you met the criteria i.e., Very Strong evidence; Practice Standard; Adequate Awareness; Little or No evidence. For each part of the process, you will receive a total score, which is categorised as Excellent; Practice standard with identifiable strengths; Practice standard with opportunities for development; Significant development required.

15. How can I prepare for the certificate?

Those registering interest are provided with additional information including a list of the SFJ Awards assessment criteria cross-referenced, wherever possible, to the appropriate sections of the recommended reading materials. The analogy is that of a driving test. Even the most experienced would have to revisit the Highway Code prior to retaking a driving test and preparation is everything! It also helps to develop the four-stage approach including preliminary exterior and interior scene examinations, which may no longer carry the prominence detailed in the NFPA 921 guide, together with forensic and safety strategies. For those experienced practitioners, who in recent years, have not carried out many Level (Tiers) 2/3 investigations and/or attended an appropriate professional development training courses, the majority of our three-day PDR events are followed by assessments on the fourth and fifth days. Those GATR trainers involved in overseeing the PDR practical exercises will not be involved in the same practitioners’ Stage 1 assessment process.

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